Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Going veggie shrinks the brain

Article from: The Courier-Mail
September 12, 2008 07:45pm

SCIENTISTS have discovered that going veggie could be bad for your brain - with those on a meat-free diet six times more likely to suffer brain shrinkage.

Vegans and vegetarians — such as Heather Mills — are the most likely to be deficient because the best sources of the vitamin are meat, particularly liver, milk and fish.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anaemia and inflammation of the nervous system.

Yeast extracts are one of the few vegetarian foods which provide good levels of the vitamin.

The link was discovered by Oxford University scientists who used memory tests, physical checks and brain scans to examine 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87.

When the volunteers were retested five years later the medics found those with the lowest levels of vitamin B12 were also the most likely to have brain shrinkage. It confirms earlier research showing a link between brain atrophy and low levels of B12.


Brain scans of more than 1,800 people found that people who downed 14 drinks or more a week had 1.6 per cent more brain shrinkage than teetotallers.

Women in their seventies were the most at risk.

Beer does less damage than wine according to a study in Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Researchers found that the hippocampus - the part of the brain that stores memories — was 10 per cent smaller in beer drinkers than those who stuck to wine.

And don’t inhale, cannabis has been shown to have the same brain-rotting effect.


Being overweight or obese is linked to brain loss, Swedish researchers discovered.

Scans of around 300 women found that those with brain shrink had an average body mass index of 27

And for every one point increase in their BMI the loss rose by 13 to 16 per cent.

A BMI 25 to 30 is classed as overweight, above 30 is clinically obese. Calculate your BMI

Dr Deborah Gustafson of University Hospital in Göteborg says obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, which are both thought to contribute to brain drain.

She adds: “Obesity may also increase the secretion of cortisol, which could lead to atrophy.”


The omega-3 oils found in fish reduce the risk of dementia and other mental disorders says Fernando Gómez-Pinilla of the University of California, Los Angeles.

He says they increase flexibility in synapses in the brain - the bits that transmit information - and boost memory and learning.


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